Tuesday, October 27, 2015


This Sunday, we celebrate All Saints Day, along with the Lord's Supper. On the one hand, we are remembering and honoring those people who have gone before us and have shown us the way to live in Christ; who persevered on their walks with God; who have modeled what it looks like to live like a child of God. On the other hand, we remember Christ's offering for us. We remember that Christ, too, showed what it looks like to live a life that followed and pursued God. Christ was also a saint, in this way.

Our Scripture focus will be John 11:32-44, the gospel story of when Jesus raised Lazarus. In the raising of Lazarus, God steadfastly refuses to let death have the final word (Feasting on the Word). And this is not a one-time thing. The case of Lazarus does not stand alone. There are still stories of people escaping death, and attributing that miracle to God. More importantly, this says something about God's power over death. We are all raised up. The saints you have known have been raised up. Jesus says to all of us "come out" from the power of death; he beckons us all to be unbound and let go (v44). 

This is what fascinates me: God wants to share who God is with us. God is unbound by death, and so we have the opportunity to as well. Following God is life-giving, to be sure. Being a child of God gives our lives meaning and purpose. But following God is also eternal-life-giving. We are unbound, because God sets us free. Praise God!

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

10/25/15---Tensions of Hebrews: Sacrifice once and for All

Last Sunday, I preached on Hebrews 5: 1-10, and my basic point was that Jesus is the best "high priest" we can have----he is the one who can truly save us. This week, our focus will be on Hebrews 7: 23-28, where we are reminded that Jesus' sacrifice was once and for all. Both of these points make me think about how we have our own "idols" in our life, but Christ satisfies us, saves us, and completes us.

The truth of it is that we have our idols. We have things in our lives that we "worship" over Christ. We can "worship" entertainment, people, money. We can even "worship" church and we can "worship" worship. When the way we reach God takes our attention, our praise, over and above God, we have created an idol and we have worshiped an idol. This is extremely difficult to handle for me. I can love a worship song more than I worship God. I can lift up my own spiritual disciplines over and above the God to whom they are directed. I can praise the people in my life that help me see and draw near to God more than God. I can cherish the relationships God gave me over God. I can be more dedicated to the church God has led me to over and above the God it worships and serves. But God is our focus! God is the reason! God has more for us...

Christ is our high priest, where our praise, attention, and focus is directed. Christ is the one who points us to God, opens up the relationship we may have with God, Christ is our High Priest.

God loves it when we sacrifice something for God's sake, whether it be for the church, in service to someone, or for our own spiritual growth and discipline. The danger is, though, that we can presume that our sacrifices are the ones that inevitably "earn" our relationship with God, "earn" God's love for us, and "earn" our own salvation. This can creep into our lives, folks. Believe me. This is what I mean by worshiping something other than God.

Hebrews 7: 27 says "Unlike the other high priests, he has no need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for those of the people; this he did once for all when he offered himself."

God is accessible by the grace of God through Jesus Christ, not what you do for God. What you do for God does not have to be out of obligation or duty, but out of the joy of your heart as you strive to be God's child. Your spiritual disciplines can become ways to seek God, not ways to earn God's favor. Your service to God's people can become ways to share the love of God that you have received; an outpouring of God's grace. Your service to the church can become ways to nurture the community of God in which you have been so nurtured. These can all become ways to worship God in joyful obedience to God.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

10/4/15---We are all One

This week, I was heartbroken about the execution of Kelly Gissendaner in Georgia. Kelly was a graduate of Candler Theological Institute in 2011, a program that Candler School of Theology offers at the  Lee Arrendale State Prison, in Alto, GA. I became aware of her story through an ethics course at Candler, and started to follow along. Amazing stories of how she impacted the people at the women's prison, inmates and officers alike, came flowing into my heart like a beautiful song of God's love and grace might enter your ears and into your heart. These were notes to her redemption song.

There are numerous articles detailing her life and her case, but that's not all that this post is about. I would love to talk to you about her if you would like to hear more. Her's is an amazing story of the power of redemption.

God brings people together through Jesus Christ and the work of the Holy Spirit. Many thousands of people joined one another in prayer and petition (to God and to the Georgia Pardons Board) on Kelly's behalf. This is what the body of Christ is all about: the uniting power that God supplies, even (perhaps, especially) in the midst of pain, tragedy, loss, and need. I called the Georgia Governor's office multiple times this week, and each time I was put on hold or prompted to leave a voice message, and my heart flooded with a sense of unity because I knew others were calling. We became one.

This Sunday, we celebrate World Communion Sunday. Around the sanctuary, there will be several photos from around the world of families with one week's worth of food. Some of the photos will look similar to the food you have stored in your house, others will not at all. These photos remind us of our differences, to be sure, but offers us a stunning perspective on the creative unity that God displays through all. God's image is in each of us, despite where we are and what we eat. I hope that these photos will bring some awareness, but also highlight the beauty in our unity as people of God.

I will be preaching in reference to two passages. One is  Luke 5: 27-32. This is the story where Jesus eats with Levi, a tax collector whom the Pharisees saw as a sinner unworthy of their presence, or Jesus'. They ask Jesus "Why do you eat with tax collectors and sinners?" Jesus answers, "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick." The other is 1 Corinthians 10: 14-17, which reminds us that "Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all share the one loaf." We are one, in Christ.

We are all sinners, in need of Christ's redemption and healing. What I have come to understand about God's grace (although it remains a holy mystery) is that it is final, total, and complete. It covers all things. It covers the tax collector's sins, Kelly's sins, my sins, your sins, and everything in between.

So, on this special occasion of World Communion Sunday, let's be mindful of God's universal church. Praise God! See you Sunday!